Surveillance Disaster Response Center

March 29 - April 3, 2017

Sited opposite fusedspace at the north end of Carolina Street is the Surveillance Disaster Response Center, a prototype rapid resource kit for increasing digital safety at the neighborhood scale. The resources, stored in a 20’ shipping container, include portable objects to facilitate small conversations about security, resources with tips and processes to become more digitally secure, and provisional libraries for both digital security and art practices related to this work.

The Surveillance Disaster Response Center is outfitted with a portable set of objects able to be transported on foot or with a small car, enabling grassroots iterations and migrations of the center. Objects stored in the center are widely available and inexpensive, either as physical or digital objects. No object is too large or heavy for the artist to lift and transport alone. This prototype is the first in a series of works intended to catalyze simple, practical actions that build digital security at small, neighborhood scales.It grew from the Digital Security First Aid Kit.

A primary construct for this work is the question: What would a half-day digital security training look like if it were equivalent to a Red Cross First Aid course? A key element of providing first aid is the direct acknowledgement, one human to another, that an injury has occurred and care can be taken. A First Aid course doesn’t train for heart surgery or cancer diagnosis. It trains for bandaging abrasions, treating headaches, and diagnosing fevers. With this scale of intervention in mind, the center has been provisioned with basic digital security first aid objects, texts and illustrations. This kit is a prototype envisioning a near future where digital security is a commonly held set of skills, widely practiced among groups of people just like medical first aid.

The Surveillance Disaster Response Center is intentionally sited outside the gallery context at street level, on public property. The center is not intended for a gallery audience alone, all visitors are welcomed and may draw from the objects stored the center. The choice to obtain a Temporary Occupancy Permit from the City and County of San Francisco continues Rachel Weidinger’s practice of temporary works on public lands, beginning with ScrapHouse (2005).

The overlapping and stacking of different types of commons is a repeated motif in the artist’s practice. As with the previous work Upwell-The ocean is our client (2011-2015) this project brings together the forms of a land-based commons (this public right of way), an emergent ethics of the so-called ‘digital commons,’ and a Creative Commons-style form for the stewarding and diffusion of educational content.

This particular choice to enact a non-standard use of an ‘unimproved’ public way is the direct outcome 16 years of  the artist living and working in the real estate climate in the Bay Area, and the increasing constraints placed on space use by artists and nonprofit workers. In San Francisco ‘unimproved’ is a formal designation for a right of way without sidewalks, pedestrian accommodations, or (in this case) any pavement. In the near future, the specific temporary site of the Surveillance Disaster Response Center will be under construction, as a zoning variation has been granted to raze that block of warehouses and light industrial spaces. The plan for the currently ‘unimproved’ public way occupied by the center is a landscaped bike parking pad for a block-sized condo development. The promotional materials for the 1301 16th Street development show a Sightglass Coffee in the abutting retail space.


March 2017